Ardh Satya is the only police drama you need to watch
There are two distinct types of Bollywood police dramas: the heroic, pro-police kind that depicts men in uniform fighting against all odds, and the action comedy. Or so we believe. Despite its numerous issues, Hindi movies have seldom addressed what it truly means to be a police officer in India. Govind Nihalani’s Ardh Satya, featuring Om Puri and Smita Patil, was one of the few films to make that step.
Sub-inspector Anant Velankar is the protagonist in Vijay Tendulkar’s 1983 play. A good, honest, and idealistic police officer, Velankar follows the rules to the letter even in the most difficult of circumstances. He meets Jyotsna (Patil), a college professor, and falls in love with her company as he finds comfort in hers from a job that was forced on him by an abusive father. He works as a mason. On the job, he comes face-to-face with a local mafia boss called Rama Shetty (Sadashiv Amrapurkar), who has half of the police force and politicians under his thumb. Velankar noticed that, in each situation, his desire to do the proper thing was thwarted by corruption and red tape. He attempts to arrest Shetty numerous times but is foiled due to his political power, Velankar even gets banned twice attempting to apprehend Shetty and his men. When the burden of the harsh reality around him becomes too much, he turns to alcohol, jeopardizing Jyotsna’s relationship with him.
Ardh Satya is a distressing film due to its sense of hopelessness that permeates each scene. Velankar, who thinks in black and white, is tormented by memories of his mother, who is beaten by his father and his inability to aid her in any manner. Every time he attempts to do the correct thing and capture criminals as well as safeguard people, he encounters with the truth that he can’t assist. He is driven to the brink of insanity by his guilt from his childhood, now muddled with mounting powerlessness. He is also frequently informed of other cops who got hooked on alcohol in order to dull their suffering and ended up having nothing in life. While he doesn’t pay much attention at first, believing himself to be made of sterner stuff, he begins to get irritated as his poor days go by.
Director: Govind Nihalani
Writers: Dilip Chitre, Vasant Dev, D.A. Panvalkar
Stars: Om Puri, Smita Patil, Amrish Puri
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Puri as the tortured, upright policeman excels. He expertly balances Velankar’s idealism and naïveté with the conflicts he faces. Jyotsna as Patil, who plays an outsider viewing Velankar’s world, does a fantastic job. She challenges his belief system and the institution he works for. She holds her ground and makes sure that he understands it, too. Both the narrative and its two main characters, who both had birthday weeks this week, are the film’s focal point. With an acumen that has become a rarity nowadays, they brought out their figures’ struggle and anguish. A combustible story like Ardh Satya would have required subtlety, care, and passion from Patil and Puri that no one else could have provided. Their legacies endure as mirrors of society with Ardh Satya, which is just as timely and hard to swallow today.